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Google Revamps Sexual-Harassment Policies After Massive Employee Protest

Google announced revisions to its sexual-harassment policies — including ending forced arbitration in such cases — one week after thousands of employees walked off the job to protest its handling of misconduct complaints against high-level execs.

On Nov. 1, an estimated 20,000-plus Google workers worldwide staged protests over the internet giant’s handling of the cases. The walkout came in response to a New York Times report that several senior Google execs — including Android inventor Andy Rubin — were rewarded with large severance packages or promotions after they were accused of sexual misconduct.

The changes were detailed by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a memo to staff Thursday.

In addition to making arbitration optional for individual sexual-harassment and sexual-assault claims, Google will consolidate its channels for reporting misconduct into one site with live support. It also will provide “extended counseling and career support” for employees making allegations of sexual misconduct, according to Pichai’s memo.

Pichai also pledged that Google will provide “more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes.”

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Last week at NYT’s DealBook conference — while the Google walkout was taking place — Pichai acknowledged that “Moments like this show we don’t always get it right” and he vowed that the company would make additional changes. At the same time, he also tried to make the case that Google’s culture has changed under his leadership, saying, “To be very clear, these incidents are from a few years ago” and noted that Google fired 48 employees for sexual misconduct in the last two years and didn’t grant any of them severance.

Read Pichai’s full memo to Google employees:

Hi everyone,

At Google we try hard to build a workplace that supports our employees and empowers them to do their best work. As CEO, I take this responsibility very seriously and I’m committed to making the changes we need to improve. Over the past few weeks Google’s leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you’ve shared.

We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It’s clear we need to make some changes.

Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns. We’ll give better support and care to the people who raise them. And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable, and respectful workplace.

Today, we’re announcing a comprehensive action plan to make progress. It’s detailed here and I encourage everyone to read it. Here are some of the key changes:

  • We will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and arbitration still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy) but, we recognize that choice should be up to you.
  • We will provide more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes at the company as part of our Investigations Report.
  • We’re revamping the way we handle and look into your concerns in three ways: We’re overhauling our reporting channels by bringing them together on one dedicated site and including live support. We will enhance the processes we use to handle concerns—including the ability for Googlers to be accompanied by a support person. And we will offer extra care and resources for Googlers during and after the process. This includes extended counseling and career support.
  • We will update and expand our mandatory sexual harassment training. From now on if you don’t complete your training, you’ll receive a one-rating dock in Perf [Google’s performance-review system].
  • We will recommit to our company-wide OKR around diversity, equity and inclusion again in 2019, focused on improving representation—through hiring, progression and retention—and creating a more inclusive culture for everyone. Our Chief Diversity Officer will continue to provide monthly progress updates to me and my leadership team.
  • I hope you’ll take the time to read the full range of actions we’re announcing today.

Thank you all for the feedback you’ve shared with us. This is an area where we need to continually make progress and are committed to doing so. We often hear from Googlers that the best part of working here is other Googlers. Even in difficult times, we are encouraged by the commitment of our colleagues to create a better workplace. That’s come through very strongly over the past few weeks.

-Sundar

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